It has been nearly 60 years since Perry Como’s familiar silky rendition of “Home for the Holidays” first graced American airwaves. In the years since, our country has been to war, 14 Olympics -- and even to the moon.

Yet despite these American endeavors bringing us to the farthest reaches of earth and space, the old saying still rings true – there’s really no place like home for the holidays.

But what if you can’t make it home?

For many students at Gonzaga, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this weighted question to the foreground in the past few months.

GU COVID-19 procedures – while completely necessary – have created uncertainty for many students living on campus. The current policy stipulates that a departure during Thanksgiving break, and a subsequent exit of Spokane County, results in a mandatory bar from campus for the duration of the semester.

At the time of writing, Zags are free to return to campus in the spring semester, picking things right back up mid-January.

However, this creates an unanticipated dilemma for many students who live outside the county. Is it better to leave, and spend more time with family? Or is leaving with finals lurking around the corner a grave misstep?

Even without added complexity of individual circumstances, it’s a tough decision to make; the pros and cons begin to add up quickly when considering the best option.

For example, many students – including myself – feel it’s difficult to be productive in a home environment and returning too early will hinder work ethic.

The original shut-down at the outset of the pandemic proved extremely difficult, especially because being relegated to a home environment while finishing out the year was a shock to the system.

A mesh of deadlines and due dates coupled with a pandemic created an atmosphere that was hardly conducive to focusing.

Returning home runs a risk of renewing those issues, and as an unconventional holiday season mania approaches – remaining on campus in hopes of preserving the little productivity left while avoiding distractions of home could be a powerful driver to those who are staying.

However, at this point in the semester, the allure of home is beginning to grow stronger now than it has been all year.

There is a reason no place is like home for the holidays, as being with family during that time is a unique experience. Family traditions, reunions and bonding-time are all factors that are, understandably, pulling students away from campus this Thanksgiving.

Another element of this “Thanksgiving dilemma” is the uncertainty of Thanksgiving on campus.

Personally, this Thanksgiving will be my first ever away from home and it would be a lie to claim I am free from anxiety about what it will look like. With an already limited student population dwindling as more return home, what will Thanksgiving look like at GU?

Will the COG be coordinating special Thanksgiving meals? Who among my dorm is staying, and what is expected of those who choose to stay?

It’s this challenging uncertainty (which has truly been a theme of this year) that’s driving students to the familiarity of home.

Staying on campus, however, does afford some resources that home cannot. The Foley Library, Rudolf Fitness Center, and other campus services will remain open to a certain extent during the break.

While the comforts of home may provide a great deal, it’s doubtful that a library and fitness center are included for a majority of students.

Retaining access to a quiet study space, fitness opportunities and plentiful dining options for a few more weeks as finals approach are important details when considering remaining on campus.

The final influence in this choice is perhaps the most important circumstance to be taken into account: finals.

Breaking up the routine of campus life can be difficult, and as final exams draw near the consequence of inability to return to GU during finals week is too steep a price to pay for many students choosing to remain.

For others, home may be a space wherein they feel considerably more comfortable taking final exams. Understandably, they’re choosing to return home; they’ll take their leave of GU to alleviate some of the stressful atmosphere that final exams tend to create.

This has been a demanding year – the approaching time is yet another hurdle in the impossible mud-slide obstacle course that has been the COVID-19 pandemic.

But regardless of whether you choose to be back home for break, or you’re here, just remember: “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” and you’ll always be sure to find a home here at GU.

Anders Svenningsen is a staff writer. 

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